Editor’s note: The name of the student suffering from depression has been changed to protect her privacy.Hunched over, sitting on a messy bed in a darkened room, hair hanging in her face and a baggy sweater hanging off her body, Nicole sat wondering what happened. She was once the outgoing teen that was always willing to try new things, but now had turned into the introvert that had no desire to ever leave her bedroom.
But why? What could be happening to her?
Rather than settle with the reason that she has changed and become antisocial, she knew that there was a bigger issue involved. Depression.
“Depression is one of the biggest problems with college students,” said Deb Choma, Castleton State College’s director of Health Services.
“The numbers of students with mental illnesses are rising each year.”
And the problem isn’t just at Castleton State College.
“Not every college student I see has depression,” said Sherry Pronto, physician’s assistant in Glen Falls, N.Y. “But I would say about 50 percent have the signs of depression or anxiety.”
Contrary to popular belief, depression
is not just a state of mind that people go through for a short period of time. In many cases, people have been that way for a long time without even knowing.
“Depression is a serious medical illness. It’s not something that you have made up in your head,” according to the National Institute of Medical Health. “It’s more than just feeling down in the dumps or blue for a few days. It’s feeling down, low and hopeless for weeks at a time.”
“I felt like I was going insane,” said Nicole. “I started out the year wanting to hang out and meet all these new people, and then all of a sudden I never wanted to be around anyone and wanted to sit in my room alone all the time. I didn’t know why it was happening to me. I was a total downer.”
The problem with illnesses like this is that there is never an absolute understanding of why certain people get it.
“The reason for college students becoming depressed is probably that there is an existing problem and then when they are taken out of their homes and comfort areas, they lose the close support that they have had all their lives,” states Pronto.
But a question that has not been answered for college students is does college cause depression?
“In some cases, the stress of college can certainly bring out an underlying problem they have had before. Stress can bring any problem forward,” said Dr. Wendy Leffel,
professor of Women’s Health Issues at Castleton State College. “But sometimes, the students can bring on the stress by some of the choices they make.”
Not only do some people feel like there is something wrong and don’t give it the right attention, but some people feel a big change can only help them in a positive way.
“A lot of people have signs of depression and don’t realize it,” states Susan Goe, a family nurse practitioner. “Most of the college students I’ve talked to think college will change them for the better and make them happier, but then they end up coming back worse than when they left off.”
And experts say depression not only affects your mind.
“Some of the students I saw with depression had anxiety or eating disorders as well,” said Leffel.
Although there isn’t an instant cure for something like this, there are ways you can help yourself to feel better.
“If they get themselves to exercise, sleep more and eat better they will definitely start to see a difference in time,” says Goe. “And of course, they need to look into proper medication and counseling at their school or a place close to them.”
With such a large number of college students with mental illnesses, schools like Castleton State work to accommodate
them and help them deal with the stresses of college.
“The way we go about making sure the students are getting taken care of is by making sure when people come to this school they have proper health forms and I take a look at them and try to touch base with those people to make sure they know everything about their medications,” said Choma. “I always suggest that the people stay in contact with a licensed therapist,
a counselor and their prescribing doctor. I see people every couple of days. We are always here to help.